THIS Easter weekend we are all taking off another holiday and will mostly be spending our time at leisure in different ways but with one common thread – there will be celebration accompanied by food.
That food will be consumed either at home or in restaurants and hotels, and this is where we should pause for a minute before taking another bite.
I write and talk a lot about tourism for a number of reasons, one of which is the benefits to the entire country that arise out of tourism if we all understand it as a revenue earner and do it right that way.
The tourism sectors of all serious countries around the world are given top priority for economic growth because they involve a wide range of sectors that benefit very many segments of people – from the farmers that grow the food that gets served in those hotels and restaurants, to the people who work there, and those that own them.
Last year I embarked on a mini-project of my own after realising there was a shortfall that I could help fill, and now must share this so that more people out there join in. A while back during an official visit to a strange country I found myself without dinner plans on one evening and needed to do some research to establish where to go.
I got to tripadvisor.com, which I had used to make my travel arrangements, and the options were overwhelming but I was glad to have so many to choose from and whet my appetite at the same time.
At the start of last year I found myself in the same position in upcountry Uganda and went straight to the trusted tripadvisor.com only to find that the town I was in did not even exist! I was nonplussed especially when I drove out of my hotel and found there were many options in that town I could have browsed through from the comfort of my hotel room.
That website, tripadvisor.com, receives 350million unique visitors a month – ten times the population of Uganda.
Surprisingly, in that town even the large establishments with names that appeared to be international in nature did not exist on tripadvisor.com!
So I began doing reviews of my own, which I found were just a drop in the ocean since there are 320million other reviews on that site.
Because the travel industry operates on word of mouth and tools like tripadvisor.com have enabled that word of mouth to travel like wildfire. Word of mouth, in the tourism sector, is valuable because it originates from ordinary people who are believed to be authentic, objective and impartial.
Many of the reviews tell the truth about the locations, so that if they are lousy the establishments themselves get to know and must fix their issues.
In fact, many of these hotels and restaurants get online because they have to respond to negative criticism – and then they find that they have to build their profiles and then they begin marketing themselves more seriously.
Ladies and gentlemen, THIS is exactly what the internet is for – for us to create and upload content to improve our lives and our environment, not just for us to download other people’s content so we admire their lives and their environment.
So last year I kicked off on this mini-project of reviewing as many eateries as possible and set myself a target that I am yet to achieve. I will not review the large hotels and restaurants alone, because they have large marketing departments and people to speak up for them in many big ways. I will, however, focus on the smaller establishments so that they get visibility on the global stage.
And that is what you guys need to join in on – this weekend as you go about enjoying Easter, do a review of every restaurant or hotel that you visit, and upload it to tripadvisor.com. Nothing complicated – just rate the place, the service, the food and the price (by clicking on the stars or radio buttons online), and then write two or three sentences in whatever language you want. Reviews are not restricted to the big-time places only – if you are going to lunch at your favourite Rolex stand or Mulokony joint today, or if lunch is at the pork joint in your village (envy demon, get thee behind me!) you can still review those places and put them on the map as well.
The difference that will make to our tourism efforts will be massive – I know because with my feeble efforts I am now a highly-rated online reviewer and I get asked many questions by people wishing to visit Uganda, the answers to which I hope help them make the decision to actually visit!
If you are scared of tripadvisor.com, go to Google Maps and become a local guide – which works the very same way. Click on the name of an establishment, type out what you think about it, and submit.
YOU might be the reason a couple of tourists choose to visit Uganda one day months from now, spending the money that the government will use to equip a hospital where your father might require life-saving surgery.
Enjoy the experience – and Happy Easter!